I have a high tolerance for eccentrics, being one myself. In fact it was only recently that I learned that eccentric has a negative connotation. That surprises me because I think all my friends are eccentric also! There is one eccentric who is on my mind lately, though. I’ll call him John.
I have known John for years, and for years he has made grapevine wreaths and sold them to me. They are beautiful and well-made, but expensive. I understand the expense because John searches along the banks of the Swannanoa River for the vines and does all the work by hand. When I first started selling the wreaths he was also selling them at one of my favorite shops in Asheville, The Gardener’s Cottage in Biltmore Village. Something happened between John and the owner, and John developed a grudge against her and refused to sell her wreaths.
I always felt I was walking on eggshells around John, because he got his feelings hurt easily. He showed up laden with wreaths whenever he felt like it and I usually made room for them. The most popular of his wreaths were the Bittersweet wreaths which he brought in when the berries were still green, and within a day or two, they berries would open and the floor would be covered with junk. Then as the berries started to dry, the berries would fall and the floor would be covered with red berries that all the vacuuming in the world couldn’t remove. Still, I loved the wreaths even when I hated the mess they made.
John, while always smelling of pot, seemed like a fit guy, even though he lived in the woods without electricity or running water. Ron is always looking for help for his construction business, and he offered John a job. “Are you joking?” John replied. “Why would I want a job where I would have to show up every day?”
“Why?” I answered. “So you could live inside when the weather is cold. That’s why.”
He pooh-poohed this idea and said he liked living outside.
One day last year, I had about ten wreaths in the store, steadily dropping berries, when John showed up with about ten more on his outstretched arms wanting me to buy them in the middle of a busy Saturday. I told him I was sorry, but I wasn’t in a position to buy more wreaths at that time, and he gave me a look and left. That was the last time I saw John.
This week a customer came into Chifferobe carrying one of John’s wreaths. He told me he bought it from another shop in Black Mountain, and he had paid only $30 for it.
It’s fine with me for John to sell his wreaths to whomever he pleases, But what surprised me was that the store is selling the wreaths for ten dollars less than John was charging me wholesale. What’s that all about? I wish them good luck with the sales, but I’m so happy I don’t have to clean up berries for the next few months.
I spoke with the owner of that shop and she told me she was through with John. She had an agreement with him that he sell the wreaths only at her shop in Black Mountain, and she was selling lots of his wreaths. Then she saw him selling the wreaths from his car right in front of The Grange, undercutting her and violating the rules of exclusivity. I wondered if John would come back to me and what I would say, when into Chifferobe stepped a toothless woman in a dirty Trump 2020 hat, her arms laden with bittersweet wreaths. They aren’t as nice as John’s but they are cheaper! Problem solved.